TAMPA -- It was almost 10 years ago that Nikolai Khabibulin led the Tampa Bay Lightning to a Stanley Cup, and since then the Chicago Blackhawks goaltender has played one game in Tampa against his former team. On Thursday he gets to play his second.
"We wanted to get Khabibulin a game on this road trip and I thought Tampa would be the right one," Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville said. "After all, he does have some history here."
He certainly does. Especially the last few moments of Game 7 of the 2004 Final, when he made a diving save on Calgary Flames defenseman Jordan Leopold to preserve the win and give the Lightning the Cup.
"I still think about that save," Khabibulin said, "but less and less as time goes by. Sometimes it pops up, kind of like, 'What if?'"
Lightning coach Jon Cooper was concerned about a different sort of "what if" before his team met the Blackhawks for the second time this season. What if the Lightning shot the puck more?
"Shooting the puck has to be more of a priority," Cooper said. "We have to be better at that. Our shots on goal are not near where I think they should be. The more you shoot the more chances you have that the puck will go in the net."
Tampa Bay enters play Thursday 30th in the NHL with 25.9 shots per game and Cooper recognizes the problem is a mindset that has to change.
"They'd rather tic-tac-toe it and set up their buddy," Cooper said. "You just have to keep hammering it in their head."
Is there anything else that can be done?
"Aside from walking around with them for 24 hours and whispering, 'Shoot, shoot, shoot,' I don't know what else to do," Cooper said.
Chicago will be without defenseman Michael Kostka, who sustained a lower-body injury during practice Tuesday and is expected to miss 4-6 weeks.
Here are the projected lineups Thursday for the Blackhawks and Lightning:
Brandon Saad - Jonathan Toews - Marian Hossa
Patrick Sharp - Michal Handzus - Patrick Kane
Bryan Bickell - Marcus Kruger - Andrew Shaw
Brandon Bollig - Brandon Pirri - Ben Smith
Duncan Keith - Brent Seabrook
Niklas Hjalmarsson - Johnny Oduya
Nick Leddy - Michal Rozsival
Scratched: Sheldon Brookbank
Injured: Michael Kostka (lower body)
Ryan Malone - Steven Stamkos - Martin St. Louis
Richard Panik - Valtteri Filppula - Alex Killorn
Ondrej Palat - Tyler Johnson - Teddy Purcell
B.J. Crombeen - Nate Thompson - Pierre-Cedric Labrie
Matthew Carle - Radko Gudas
Victor Hedman - Sami Salo
Eric Brewer - Andrej Sustr
Scratched: Keith Aulie, Mark Barberio
Injured: Tom Pyatt